Chapter 3 : The Jaguar
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“Stop paying so much attention,” hissed Victoria as she drew her ideal set of dress robes in the margin of her parchment.
“Can’t help it,” I muttered. “There’s so much to know.”
It was true. While Professor Binns was by no means the most engaging teacher at Hogwarts, his subject was fascinating to me. The goblin wars and rebellions, the witch burnings, the wizarding wars, the past swirled around and created how we lived now.
Before Victoria could reply, there was a knock on the door.
“No, no, Mr. Waddington, you can’t go to the toilet,” grunted Binns.
“Pardon me, Professor Binns,” Professor McGonagall said kindly as she cracked open the door. “Please excuse Miss Fortescue for the rest of class. I need her to come with me.”
The class turned towards me. I put down my quill and began to pack my things. I knew better than to argue with the Headmistress in front of the class, especially as a prefect.
“Very well then.” Binns cleared his throat and continued, “Ah yes, the eighteenth century. Now that was a time…”
I could feel the class’s interest leave with me. Professor McGonagall, after closing the classroom’s door, turned to me and pursed her lips.
“Am I in trouble, Professor?” I asked.
“No, no, Miss Fortescue. It’s best that you come with me to my office.”
I followed her silently to her office, puzzled over this sombre occasion. We went past the eagle statue and up the spiral steps before she spoke to me again.
“Miss Fortescue, this might be a bit of a shock to you. Try to brace yourself as best as you can, and know that you can take as much time as you need.”
I stared up at her, nodding slowly, unsure of exactly what was happening. Professor McGonagall opened the door to her office and ushered me inside.
Books lined the room, as well as portraits of past headmasters and headmistresses. I could see the famous Albus Dumbledore snoozing in his frame.
“Miss Fortescue, you have a visitor,” Professor McGonagall announced.
A witch was sitting in a chair facing the desk. Upon our arrival, she stood up and turned around.
“Hello, Amelia,” she breathed, smiling.
I blinked a few times as my heartbeat quickened.
“Mum,” I answered.
She embraced me, and I stared over her shoulder at Professor McGonagall’s empty chair.
“Minerva, would I be able to talk to my daughter somewhere more private?” my mum asked. Professor McGonagall’s gaze narrowed as she nodded.
“Of course. I’ll have tea brought up to my private parlor.” She showed as inside and waited with us until the tea arrived and shut the door behind her.
I walked over to the window and stared out at the grounds. The Black Lake was a glossy mirror to the overcast sky.
“Amelia, darling, look at how much you’ve grown!” beamed my mum as she settled into an armchair.
“What do you want?” I asked flatly, still staring outside.
My mum laughed uncomfortably. “You’re all business, aren’t you? Come and sit. I’ve poured you some tea. Let’s catch up.”
I crossed my arms, squeezing my torso. She wanted to catch up? “I’m not thirsty.”
“Amelia, I wish you’d be more receptive to my visit. I’ve traveled a long way to see you.” Out of the corner of my eye, she picked up a teacup and took a sip. “Ah, just like I remembered it. Do you enjoy the tea here at Hogwarts?”
“No,” I lied. I faced her. “Why are you here?”
My mum’s gaze hardened. “Sit down.”
“I’m fine here.”
Her grey eyes pierced my hazel ones. There was nothing polite about her please, or nothing desperate. There was a warning behind the word, a threat.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in a chair across from her. Her composure softened, but my muscles remained stiffened.
“There, that’s nice. Now, tell me about your classes. I heard that you’re in sixth year Ancient Runes.”
“Yes,” I replied tersely. “Seems like that’s one good thing you’ve done for me.”
“Amelia,” she said warningly. “Let’s be civil.”
“We don’t have to be anything. I wasn’t even at Hogwarts the last time that I saw you,” I snapped.
“You know that it’s not my choice,” she began but I cut her off.
“Really? Dumping your only child at your extended cousin’s place? And then visiting sporadically for the next few years until visits stop all together? Message received. I’ve moved on with my life, and you don’t have a place in it.”
My mum set down her teacup. Her greying brown hair was tied austerely into a knot at the base of her neck, leaving the angles of her face to flash dangerously in my direction.
“Is that what Susan’s told you?” she asked quietly. I could see a crouching jaguar behind her words. One wrong move, and she would attack.
“No. I arrived at that conclusion myself.”
“I see.” Her fingers traced the rim of her teacup, but her eyes never left my face. “You know, it hasn’t been easy.”
I grit my teeth. I didn’t want to hear a pining mother act.
“The work I do… it’s not meant for children,” she went on, carefully, her words edging closer to her attack. “I understand it must be hard to be without your parent. But once you understand the bigger picture…”
She trailed off, finally looking down at her teacup. She seemed like she was pondering taking another sip. But I knew better. She was waiting to pounce on my ignorance.
I sat there in silence.
“Amelia, I left you at Susan’s for your own protection. What I’m doing now, what I’ve been doing since before you were born, is all for you. It’s for wizardkind everywhere.”
“Okay. Then go back to what you were doing.”
My mum raised an eyebrow. “You aren’t curious to find out what I’ve been doing?”
“Oh come on, Amelia. I’ve received Susan’s letters, begging me to come back to give you some peace. She’s told me about how worried she is about you.”
“I’m fine. I go to school. I go to my classes. I get decent grades. And I’m prefect for Merlin’s sake!” I say, standing again. “Listen, I can continue doing all of these things if you’re finished with your visit.”
“I see.” She took a sip from her cup. “Sit down again, Amelia.”
I found myself obeying her. I crossed my legs and leaned back into my chair.
“Now then. If you’re so eager to go back to being a normal student, then I’ll get down to business. After all, that’s what you want.” She paused, and I gave her a blank look. “What I’ve dedicated so much of my life to is for the greater good. I’ve been working tirelessly for The Cause.”
I couldn’t help myself. “The Cause?” I snorted.
“Yes. I want... I hope that you will keep an open mind. It’s a part of our family. It has been for generations. Your grandfather--my father, Florean--was too meek to do much of anything. It cost him his life during the Second Wizarding War.”
“Okay. Aunt Susan’s told me about my grandfather’s ice cream shop in Diagon Alley.”
“Yes, that was his. I spent many of my summers helping around that shop… But even though he didn’t have much grit for The Cause, he had a keen mind for magical history, a mind, I hear, that you also possess.”
My legs uncrossed. I was furious that she caught my interest.
“I can’t tell you everything about The Cause, I’m afraid. Not now. I hope to in the future. But know this: greater wizards have been a part of it, and they’ve failed. It’s not for the weak of heart, mind, and spirit. But it’s a part of your heritage, and so, if you hear anything said against The Cause in The Prophet or from your teachers here, know that The Cause isn’t what it’s made out to be.”
I scrunched my nose. “Are you… are you doing something illegal?”
“No,” my mum said gently. “I am an activist, trying to change the world for better.”
My mum smiled softly. “I can’t tell you that right now. But I do have something for you.” Her hand went inside her plum robe’s pocket and withdrew an envelope. “Amelia, don’t open this here. Open this when you’re absolutely certain that you’re alone.”
My hands extended, and the envelope dropped into them. It was light, but I could tell there was something other than parchment inside.
“Put it inside your bag. It’s best that no one sees.” I obliged. “I should be leaving, Amelia. I don’t know when the next time you’ll see me.” She stood and waited for me, but I remained seated. “Don’t play these games with me, Amelia.”
“You’re the one who’s playing games!” I snapped. My anger propelled me to my feet. “Not seeing me for years and then you show up one day to talk about some important family secret that you can’t tell me much about!”
“I know how frustrating that must be for you. But do know that I have your best interests at heart.” She cupped my cheek with her hand. Her grey eyes searched mine. “You’re going to be a powerful witch, Amelia. I look forward to seeing you again.”
She leaned forward to kiss me.
“Don’t!” I hissed, stepping out of her reach. “That’s not something you say to your daughter!”
My mum walked past me and opened the door into Professor McGonagall’s office to stop my rant. It worked.
“Minerva, dear, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you for taking Amelia out of class, but I best be off.”
Professor McGonagall stood from behind her desk. Her eyes went from my mum’s calm demeanor to mine.
“You’re welcome, Rita. Miss Fortescue, are you quite all right? You look pale.”
My mum turned to face me, eyebrows raised. I stared at the two women for a moment. “I’m fine, really, Professor. I better get going back to class,” I said sweetly. “Thank you both for your thoughtfulness towards me.”
I caught my mum’s eye. She was grinning broadly. In that moment, I knew she had won. The jaguar had made its kill.
It’s a warm night. Whenever a breeze enters my room, I breathe a sigh of relief. I can hear Eddie and Helen listening to the wireless downstairs, which means that Uncle Michael should be reading The Evening Prophet and Aunt Susan should be catching up on her correspondence. If this were another time, I would be with them with a book, but recently, most nights I spend in my room.
I am on my bed, staring at the flickering shadows from my candles. The tiny box from this morning’s owl is on my bedside table, jarring me with its presence.
“Did you send it, Rita?” I mutter as I lift my knees to catch the stale breeze. My head turns towards the box. “If so, where did you get it?”
This wouldn’t be the first time that she would have given me something of this magnitude. But it isn’t her style. From what I know of my mother, she has no interest in it. And she likes the recognition.
Cursing, I sit up and take off the lid. I should just get it over with. That way, I will know. That way, I will be able to say good-bye.
“Cut it out, Amelia,” I say as I stare at the tiny object within. My hand trembles as I reach inside and touch the smooth pebble.
Holding my breath, I look around the room. No one is there. Slightly relieved, I lift the pebble out of the box to examine it. Even in the candlelight, I can see the light carving of the triangular eye.
“No bloody way…”
I clench it into my fist, and I can feel his presence before I can see him.
A/N: Second chapter! What do you think? What of The Cause? Who's there at the end of the chapter? Hmmm... ;) Please share your thoughts!
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